Chatham governing bodies to receive $30 million in federal stimulus funds

Posted 5/12/21

Chatham County’s slice of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package amounts to more than $30 million, and the county and its municipalities are figuring out ways to spend it.

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Chatham governing bodies to receive $30 million in federal stimulus funds

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Posted

Chatham County’s slice of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package amounts to more than $30 million, and the county and its municipalities are figuring out ways to spend it.

In response to ongoing economic crisis amid the pandemic, President Joe Biden signed the package back in March. The sweeping subsidies included another round of individual stimulus payments, an extension of unemployment benefits and $350 billion dollars in emergency funding for state, local, territorial and Tribal governments to be dispensed.

Considered by many pundits and politicians a progressive and expansive relief package, the legislation will shore up governments and organizations across the country, including four in Chatham. Here’s a breakdown of how each plans to use the funds.

Chatham County

The State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds legislation, part of the American Rescue Plan, includes $65.1 billion in flexible aid to be distributed across all U.S. counties.

Chatham County is estimated to receive $14.4 million in direct funding, according to the National Association of Counties (NACo).

Kara Dudley, Chatham County government’s public information officer, confirmed this amount, though she said “there are countless funds created to be directed in many different directions.”

“Chatham County staff is reviewing the presently available details concerning the American Rescue Plan funding allocation,” Dudley told the News + Record. “We have been told that additional formal guidance is forthcoming, which will help us structure a plan around this funding.”

On May 10, the U.S. Dept. of Treasury released such guidance, as well as a new portal counties must complete to receive the recovery funds. That guidance maintained Chatham’s $14.4 million allocation for a grand total of $14,464,924.

According to the Treasury Department web page, the following applications are approved for ARP funds:

• Supporting public health expenditures

• Addressing negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries and the public sector

• Replacing lost public sector revenue

• Providing premium pay for essential workers

• Investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure

“Within these overall categories, recipients have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet the needs of their communities,” the website says.

Last week, Dudley said the county was working with several organizations, including NACo, the N.C. County Commissioners Association and Triangle J Council of Governments “to ensure that we are well informed of developments as we await additional guidance.”

Pittsboro

Pittsboro will receive about $1.28 million from the ARP, according to Town Manager Chris Kennedy. The funds may be used to address water infrastructure issues, which are critical in Pittsboro.

“Knowing that the water is such a big deal, my recommendation to my board was that we take 100% of that money and apply it towards our water quality projects,” Kennedy told the News + Record, “to help us offset some of those costs.”

Pittsboro’s drinking water is notoriously contaminated with PFAS — carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — introduced into the water supply by upstream factories. According to a recent nationwide study by Consumer Reports, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Pittsboro’s PFAS concentrations are the highest in the U.S.

To improve the town’s water quality, Pittsboro’s board of commissioners has approved several reactive projects, some of which should be completed within about a year. At the board’s meeting three weeks ago, Kennedy estimated the first project — installation of a new filtration system at the water plant — might cost almost $3 million, $1.2 million of which the town already has in its enterprise fund.

“We’ve got another $400,000 to finish the engineering and then the remaining dollars are to do the rest of construction of that work, and so we think that’s it’s going to take about $1.4 million more to finish the project,” Kennedy said. “So of the $1.4 million, we intend to use the $1.28 million towards that, and we’ll only have $100,000 left to make up the difference if need be.”

Siler City

Siler City is poised to received about $2.41 million in ARP funds, according to Town Manager Roy Lynch.

“I have informed the board that we will receive ARP funding,” Lynch told the News + Record. “However, staff continues to wait on additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury prior to having further conversations with the board concerning the appropriations once received.”

The board of commissioners will have its next regular meeting on Monday during which commissioners and town staff are likely to discuss plans for the federal allocation.

Chatham County Schools

Chatham County Schools expects to receive a total allotment of $18.8 million as part of North Carolina’s Elementary & Secondary School (K-12) Emergency Relief funds — including a third funding amount of $12 million through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Twenty percent of that funding, about $2.4 million, must go toward mitigating learning loss, the district said at the CCS Board of Education’s May 10 meeting. The remaining funds can be used to respond to COVID-19, prevent COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus, the district said during its presentation to the board.

“It’s been a quick turnaround,” said Amanda Hartness, CCS assistant supterintendent of academic services and instructional support, “(with) many complexities and layers. But we feel really proud of what we’ve put together thus far.”

The school system submitted its application on May 7 for second and third rounds of funding — totaling $17.4 million to be spent over several years. More about the district’s proposal can be found in coverage of Monday’s school board meeting in this week’s edition.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @HannerMcClellan. Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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